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Prepping for the MCAT During Freshman Year

  • by Fehbe Meza
  • Mar 09, 2020
  • MCAT Blog, MCAT Prep

Written By Next Step MCAT Tutor Steven Lawless

Are you thinking about prepping for the MCAT in your freshman year? This means you’ve already made the huge decision to be a pre-med! This can be exciting, but also very nerve-wracking, time. Balancing your volunteering, science classes, and campus life can be quite a challenge. You know you will eventually have to take the MCAT but aren’t exactly sure what, if anything, you should be doing now. Unsurprisingly, there are things you can do as a pre-med freshman that will set you up for later success on the MCAT, as well as your entire undergrad career.

It’s important to understand upfront that the MCAT, is a mile wide but an inch deep. That means that many of your undergrad classes are going to cover a lot of material that either isn’t directly tested on the MCAT or isn’t tested in as much detail. That doesn’t mean you should rest easy, but it does mean that you should go into your classes with a good idea as to what information will show up on the MCAT.

A great place to start is the AAMC topics list. This is a current list put out by the writers of the MCAT, and it has every topic that could be covered on the exam. Before you start taking any of your prerequisite courses, take a look at this list and note what subjects you are likely to see again. Once you get your syllabi for your classes, try and compare the two, and see when you will be covering MCAT coursework.

But how will you remember that material two or three years later when you take the MCAT? Research has shown us that the key to long term recall is spaced repetition, the idea that you need to review things at regular and increasing intervals in order to store those facts in your long-term memory. If you simply cram for an exam, and then never review the material again, you will probably forget everything you “learned” shortly after your semester is over.

You might be wondering how you can compile your ever-growing set of binders/folders/hard drives worth of concepts learned in class, in a way that doesn’t make reviewing them regularly a prohibitively time-consuming ordeal. The answer is simple: Anki. Anki is a free flashcard software that has everything you need to begin developing a set of killer flashcards to help you ace the MCAT.

How to use Anki

You make your electronic flashcards based on your class/textbook notes. While it may take some time to create, these flashcards will help you with your current tests and quizzes, as well as the MCAT later. Anki shows them to you at various different intervals. As you get flashcards correct, you will see them less often. A key feature of Anki is “tagging,” which allows you to add different labels to different flashcards based on the material they cover. Following the AAMC topics list and the syllabi in your classes, you can begin tagging flashcards that cover MCAT topics with the tag “MCAT.”

Once your semester ends you can compile all of the different MCAT topic flashcards to a single deck of cards and continue to review those as you move into your next semester. You now have a manageable database of high-yield flashcards, created by you, for you, for free! And don’t worry if you are wondering whether or not learning how to use the Anki software is difficult or if it might be more trouble than it’s worth! Anki is widely used in medical school by many successful medical school students. If you start now, you will begin developing a set of study skills that will serve you for a long time.

Ok freshman, here’s your battle plan:

Step One: Download a copy of the AAMC MCAT topics list.

Step Two: Use the topics list in conjunction with your syllabi to track when you will be covering topics that will show up on the MCAT—and please don’t skip those classes.

Step Three: Learn how to use Anki (your future med school self will thank you) and begin developing a set of high yield flashcards that you can review regularly using Anki’s automated spaced repetition.

Step Four: Relax knowing you will be quite a few steps ahead of the game once you really begin your dedicated MCAT studying.

When the time comes, we’ll be right here to help you with your MCAT prep with the most representative MCAT practice exams and the best online MCAT course. Until then, take school seriously but don’t forget to enjoy your college experience. You’ll only be a bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed freshman once!

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